Monday, March 2, 2009

Map Collections @ the Library of Congress

The LOC's digitized map collection has scans of maps from the 15th through 21st centuries, selected mostly for their particular historical value, especially maps of North America. They have a separate page for their rights information and one detailing their digitization process, as well as one where you can buy reproductions. I found it particularly interesting that there's a disclaimer on the home page stating that these maps reflect past attitudes and beliefs, and as such may contain some material that offends certain audiences. Its intended audience is probably people wanting to study past interpretations and representations of geography, especially as it related to culture or historical events, or for historians looking for specific locations.

The maps are sorted on the site into categories like "transportation and communication" or "cultural landscapes". They can also be searched by keyword, subject, geographic location, creator, or title. Each map has its own page, loaded with metadata such as the call number and subject heading (this is the LOC, after all). You can change the size of the viewing window, as well as zoom in on each image. However, even the largest viewing window is pretty small (640x480), and it can be hard to navigate the image, especially when zoomed in. The site doesn't appear to have been updated since 2005, though, so perhaps better zoom programs weren't available or were too expensive at the time. The images can be downloaded in JPEG2000 format, possibly for more ease of navigation in an offline program and for other uses.

--A. McClendon

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